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Movie Preview: Pixar's Turning Red

In our new Preview series, we give you a closer look at upcoming releases. And where better to start than the biggest animation release of the year so far, Pixar's Turning Red?

Coming to Disney Plus on March 11, Turning Red is the feature debut of Domee Shi, director of the Oscar-Winning short Bao. Shi is the first woman to solo direct a film for Pixar. Brenda Chapman was credited as the co-director of Brave, but she left the project and Mark Andrews took over. That film was released in 2012, so it's taken a whole decade until Pixar let another woman direct a film, which is pretty shocking. Shi is also the only the second person of colour to direct a Pixar film (after The Good Dinosaur's Pete Sohn) and the only woman of colour. Given that, Disney's decision to shift the film to a streaming release isn't a great look, now that cinema attendance is starting to recover, if not quite to pre-pandemic levels (Spider-Man aside). And that Lightyear, currently still seems set for a theatrical release this summer.

Shi drew on her own experience growing up in a Canadian-Chinese family in Bao, and has done it again to make Turning Red a very personal film. It centres on 13-year-old Meilin Lee who has to deal with the usual challenges of adolescence (such as first crushes, school work and a very overprotective mum) as well as discovering that she has inherited the family curse which makes her turn into a giant red panda when she gets too emotional or overexcited. We're going to assume that the second part isn't based on Shi's real-life experience.

The story takes place in Shi's own childhood hometown of Toronto, Canada (the city's iconic CN Tower is visible in a number of the trailers), somewhere around 2002-2003. The time setting allows for all sorts of period-accurate details that will give millennial viewers in particular lots of easter eggs and visual references to enjoy. It also explains the ingenious use of The Backstreet Boys in the trailers.

Turning Red has its own fictional noughties-style boy band in 4*Town. The film will feature three original songs performed by them, written by Billie Eilish and FINNEAS. Pixar has brought on Emmy, Grammy and Oscar-winning (two-thirds of the way to an EGOT) Swedish composer  Ludwig Göransson on to write the score. Göransson is best known for his work on Black Panther and The Mandalorian.

Mei is voiced by young actress Rosalie Chiang, in her first major role. She's a relative newcomer to acting, with only three credits prior to landing the lead here. The iconic Sandra Oh appears as Mei's mother Ming and Orion Lee plays her father, Jin. Mei's gang of gal pals are played by Ava Morse as Miriam, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Hyein Park as Abby. British singer Anne Marie will appear as Mei's classmate Lauren, a "Red Panda super-fan", The cast also includes respected Asian actors James Hong and Wai Ching Ho.

It's no coincidence that the Red Panda problem sets in at this age, as it's pretty clearly an allegory for adolescence." We’re basically using the red panda as an adorable metaphor for the very unadorable phenomenon of puberty," says Shi. That alone makes its pretty fresh territory for Pixar, and for Hollywood feature animation generally, which still are dominated by stories from the male perspective for the most part. Turning Red is also the first film at Pixar to be both written and directed by women- Shi wrote the screenplay alongside Julia Cho.

Mei is quite different from your typical Pixar lead character. She's nerdy, goofy, weird and just confidently, comfortably herself. "When I was her age, I was Mei," says Chii. " I was writing Harry Potter fan-fiction, passionately drawing fan art. I had a secret sketchbook that my parents did not know about. Now that I’m grown, I know so many amazing women who all had nerdy
beginnings. I just wanted to show that with Mei."

Mei's loyal group of friends is a deliberate attempt to avoid the "mean girl" trope we see so often. "Domee really wanted to do something different," Cho says. "Mei’s friends don’t judge
each other or put each other down. When you really look at a lot of friendships-mine,
my daughter’s or Domee’s within Pixar-they're nurturing and supportive. I love
emphasizing that component of female friendships because for too long the narrative
has been that we’re competitive, hierarchical and we tear each other down. The truth is
different. And that became a really important part of the movie. "

Turning Red will be streaming on Disney Plus everywhere the platform is available from Wednesday, March 11, with a cinema release planned in countries where it hasn't arrived yet (except Russia). It will also screen for a one-week engagement at Hollywood's prestigious El Capitan Theatre from the day of release. A making-of documentary called Embrace The Panda: Making Turning Red will also release on March 11.

Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” introduces Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda! Directed by Academy Award® winner Domee Shi (Pixar short “Bao”) and produced by Lindsey Collins “Turning Red launches exclusively on Disney+ on March
11, 2022.

Turning Red Teaser

Turning Red Trailer 




 Music Video


Gallery: Posters and Promotions

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